roasted tofu with dipping sauce

Tofu and I have a long, sometimes fractious relationship. We didn’t start off well.

When I was in high school, I decided to become a vegetarian. Suddenly disgusted by meat, I announced to my mother that I didn’t want to eat it. My brother joined along too.

Mom announced that I would be cooking my own meals from now on.

Okay. I liked to stand in front of the electric griddle and flip the grilled cheese sandwiches. This shouldn’t be hard.

However, at the time we were eating the typical American diet: meat with a couple of sides. Learning to cook without meat was like diving into cold dark water. Yikes it was tough to stay in there. Laurel’s Kitchen offered recipes for Savory Dinner Loaf with soy grits and bulghur wheat, neither of which was in our kitchen. Lentil Nut Loaf seemed do-able, until I saw torula yeast and soy flour. I had never heard of either. In the breakfast section, Uppuma involved turmeric powder and black mustard seeds, along with cracked wheat. Oh dear.

(My memory isn’t that great. I still have the copy I bought at that Malibu garage sale, all these years later. And flipping through it, I notice just how many recipes call for whole wheat or wheat germ. Trying to be healthy, I was making myself sick.)

Mostly I made a lot of grilled cheese sandwiches and iceberg salads with bottled ranch dressing.

One day, however, I decided to make veggie burgers. My parents were grilling steaks. I wanted something good to go on the grill too. I didn’t have a recipe. I made one up on the spot. I squelched tofu through my fingers to break it up, then threw in sunflower seeds, ketchup, wheat germ, and spinach, then shaped them into patties.

I stopped being a vegetarian after that.

(By the way, there are tremendous recipes for veggie burgers out there. I love eating them, now that I know more what I’m doing.)

No wonder I didn’t like tofu for awhile.

My mistake was the one most folks make: thinking of tofu as a meat substitute. That’s what Danny thought for years. However, tofu is so much more.

Tofu has a fairly neutral taste, so it takes on the flavors of the foods you throw on it. Chile oil or peanut butter — they both work with tofu. Instead of thinking of it as a substitute for meat, think of tofu as a convenient holder for the flavor you want to build.

However, it’s easy to cook tofu badly, really badly. I’ve eaten tofu sautéed in a cold pan with lukewarm oil and I’ve wanted to spit it out at the dinner table. I refrained, but I wanted. I’ve eaten barely warm tofu with curry sauce thrown at it. That didn’t help my cause of convincing Danny to like tofu.

He swore for years that he hated tofu, one of the few foods he wouldn’t eat.

However, after a couple of years of hearing him talk trash about tofu, I realized something: he had never tried it before.

When we were at a friend’s house, a friend who is a vegan, Danny tried the roasted tofu done Canary Islands style, and he went back for seconds. Seconds! When I said to him later that night, “See, tofu can be good!” that’s when he admitted that was the first time he had ever eaten it.

After that, I convinced him to try it more often. He still didn’t love it. He tolerated tofu.

However, this past year, Danny has been creating weekly specials at the restaurant where he’s a chef. (We always say Daddy’s Restaurant when we talk to Lu, but he neither owns it nor runs it. He likes the fact that he goes in to cook and leaves at the end of the night with nothing left behind.) He creates a new fish special every day, as well as a gluten-free dessert. However, every Monday he thinks all day long about what to start cooking for his weekly special.

His gluten-free, vegan special.

Danny, in the past, could be a little derisive about vegans. He loves feeding everyone, and he would never slip meat or cream into a vegan diner’s dish. But like many chefs, he used to believe that bacon or butter made everything better.

His food has been transformed this year. Now he makes vegan bouillabaisse with gluten-free focaccia croutons that leave the entire staff begging for more. Or a three-rice stuffed pepper with romesco sauce. Or chickpeas and black rice with bok choy, lacinato kale, sunchokes, and a blood orange-white balsamic vinaigrette.

When I go into his restaurant to eat with Lu, I almost always order the vegetarian special. It’s almost always the best meal on the menu.

In some of these dishes, he has been making grilled tofu. We have a tofu factory here on Vashon. Danny loves to use local ingredients. People love his vegan specials with grilled tofu. The staff loves them. Danny was tempted to eat some grilled tofu and wanted more. He started liking tofu, a little.

Last week, we made a tofu dish inspired by Michelle Stern’s lovely new cookbook, The Whole Family Cookbook: Celebrate the Goodness of Locally Grown Foods. Michelle is passionate about getting kids in the kitchen and involving families in every step of the cooking process, as well as the need to use as many local foods as possible. Her kind and thoughtful book is meant to help busy families make healthy meals together. Of course we wanted to help spread the word about this.

When I saw the recipe for tofu triangles with dipping sauce, I told Danny we had to make it. He wasn’t particularly enthusiastic, but he agreed.

We changed it up a bit — Danny can never make a recipe as written — and decided to roast the tofu instead of baking it. Roasted tofu has a crisp skin with a soft interior. It squeaks sometimes when you bite into it — there is that much crunch. As Danny said when I pulled them out of the oven, they look like homemade marshmallows. They puff up that much.

Roasting is my favorite technique for making great tofu.

We let them cool a bit, then took these photos, and then we three ate together.

“Wow,” said Danny. “This is really good. Can we make more?”

ROASTED TOFU WITH TAMARI DIPPING SAUCE, inspired by a recipe in The Whole Family Cookbook: Celebrate the goodness of locally grown foods

Pull out the ingredients for this and you could be having a great snack within half an hour. These are pretty addictive – this batch disappeared pretty quickly. However, if you have any leftover after the initial eating excitement, the roasted tofu would be great in salads or over brown rice with roasted vegetables. The dipping sauce makes a great marinade for seared salmon or roasted chicken, as well.

The wasabi powder here is optional but it adds a great zing to the sauce. Wasabi root, known as Japanese horseradish, has a bit of a kick, which breathes some fire into otherwise bland dishes. You probably know it best as the green glob that appears next to your sushi. It has so many other uses, however. The McCormick Gourmet folks sent us some of theirs (remember that we’re part of their blogger group and thus paid to talk about their spices) and we have been using it in unexpected dishes. Just a pinch adds great heat.

16 ounces firm tofu
Kosher salt and cracked black pepper
2 tablespoons grapeseed oil

2 cloves garlic, sliced
1 nub ginger, peeled (about the size of half your pinky finger)
2 tablespoons wheat-free tamari
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1/8 teaspoon wasabi powder (optional)
3 tablespoons sesame oil
9 tablespoons grapeseed oil

Preparing to roast. Preheat the oven to 450°. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Roasting the tofu. Cut the tofu into 1-inch cubes. Season the tofu with salt and pepper. Pour the oil over the tofu and gently toss them with oil to coat. It’s probably best to do this with your fingertips, taking care to not crumble the tofu. You want solid cubes.

Tumble the seasoned tofu onto the baking sheet. Slide it into the oven and roast the tofu for 15 minutes. Take the baking sheet out of the oven and flip over all the tofu cubes. Slide the baking sheet into the oven again and roast until the tofu cubes are puffed up and browned, about another 15 minutes.

Making the dipping sauce. While the tofu is roasting, toss the garlic cloves and ginger to a food processor. (You could also use a blender for this.) Whirl them up until they are pulpy. Add the tamari, rice wine vinegar, and wasabi powder (if you are using it) and mix up the sauce. With the food processor running, pour in the sesame and grapeseed oils, slowly, a bit at a time. This will emulsify the dipping sauce, which means the ingredients will hold together.

Remove the tofu from the oven. When they are cool to the touch, dip them in the sauce and eat.

Feeds 4.

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69 comments on “roasted tofu with dipping sauce

  1. Lisa

    I’m a tofu skeptic but I might be convinced to try this. They actually look interesting all brown and puffy. I do love those bowls with the little bunnies. Those are great!

    1. shauna

      Baking is generally done at a lower temperature. The high heat makes for the texture you see.

  2. Christine

    I love tofu! Growing up with Chinese family in Indonesia, we had tofu at least three times a week. We like it fried, steamed, stir fried, but never tried roasting it. Try serving it with rice noodles and bean sprouts, it could serve as a light lunch.

  3. Michelle

    I am a huge fan of roasting tofu, well actually I love to roast anything I can and some things that I shouldn’t. Roasted romaine lettuce is incredible… This tofu sounds delicious. I couldn’t agree more, tofu is not a substitute for meat, don’t expect meat – it is soy. It has needs all of its own.

  4. Jean Layton

    Love this! Easy, quick and healthy too. I’ve made a similar dish for years with sesame seeds, peanut oil and a bit o pepper brushed on tofu slices but really like the idea of a bite sized morsel.
    Time to go pick up some tofu at the market.

  5. Lauren B

    Amazing! Do I need to press the tofu first, or can I just take it out of the package and cut it into 1″ cubes immediately? I usually buy firm tofu stored in water.

  6. Damselfly

    Wow, this recipe looks great! I just wish I could eat it. Unfortunately for me, soy protein does a bigger number on my digestion than wheat does. I love tofu and soy products and I think I ate too many of them when I became vegetarian 20 years ago. About 3 years ago I had to stop eating soy (and a year later wheat). This recipe makes me want to eat it again! Thanks Shauna for always showing all sides of the culinary spectrum and inspiring everyone. Maybe I can figure out something else to eat with that sauce – yum!

    1. Becky

      Have you tried sprouted tofu? I can’t handle soymilk or more than a couple pieces of regular tofu these days, but the sprouted tofu seems to be a lot easier on the gut.

  7. Karina

    The men in my life aren’t crazy about tofu either. But I love it. And roasting it sounds divine. Glad to hear Danny is softening a bit on his vegan stance. I’ve been vegan and vegetarian for more decades than I care to admit. I think it’s a creative, inspiring way to cook. As you have shown!

  8. Alison

    I love tofu, but I have a terrible time cooking it myself – something I always blame on my impatient refusal to squeeze and drain the darn stuff as long as I should. Yet you don’t mention that at all here. Did you take the tofu straight out of the package and start cooking?

    That photograph makes me want to scrap the rest of the evening, go buy some tofu, and turn on the oven (unfortunately not an option). I can’t wait to try it!

    1. shauna

      Straight out of the package. I think the water might help with the steamed inside, which is fantastic.

  9. Christina

    After reading the introduction, I have to say I love tofu. One of my favorite kinds of tofu is egg tofu, which can be bought in a tube like container at asian markets, like uwajimaya.
    You know in Seattle there is an awesome tofu/soy milk place called thanh son tofu. They sell soy milk that can be used to make tofu. My mom makes tofu with a thermal cooker using the soy milk from there. It makes it easy to have tons of fresh sweet tofu for desert. You can make a ginger sauce/syrup to go with it and it’s delicious that way.

  10. Nicole

    I have been working on getting more protein in my diet and since I don’t like to eat meat or eggs at every meal, I’ve been trying to work more tofu into the rotation. I don’t know why I never thought of roasting it, but your photos are really making me crave it. I’ll be snacking on this shortly!

  11. Melissa

    Nicely shot. The colour temperature is lovely.
    I love the serving bowl at the end as well. I think I have the same one in my cabinet!

  12. Daily Spud

    I may just have to reconsider my relationship with tofu (which has always been lukewarm) after reading this, and I mean that in a good way!

  13. Kathleen

    Sometimes I read about your pre-gluten-free life and I wonder if maybe we’re secretly the same person. I went through that exact same high school vegetarian phase, and ate so much wheat! Ugh. No wonder I was sick all the time. But that tofu looks incredible!

  14. Joyce

    Oh my! I cannot thank you enough for this recipe. I have turned vegetarian (lacto ovo) and have been thinking of creative ways to make tofu. My meat eating husband likes tofu, but only the kind that is sauteed with a crispy outside. For some reason mine never comes out that way! But I can see roasting it will take care of that issue. This recipe looks stupendous. I can’t wait to try it!

    By the way, I’ve peeked in and out of your blog over the years. I like what you’re doing with recipes lately, healthy, delicious, luscious looking recipes that don’t depend on a pile of meat.

    I predict you will have a new slew of followers; mark my words.

    I cannot thank you enough.

  15. Nina

    I used to try to make Booth eat this tofu/spinach dish that basically turned into mush after I stir-fried it and tossed it with rice… but once I discovered that if I pan fry the tofu (in triangles) before using it in any combination- it tastes and feels radically different. I’ve never tried roasting – but I imagine that would achieve the same result with less oil! I’m game. Tofu is also a very economic alternative protein for these “lean times.” Thanks for giving Tofu another chance.

  16. Catherine

    I love that the tofu doesn’t have to be squeezed and drained! Can’t eat bean products everyday or they really get me. So tragic as I love them.

  17. Terri

    Yummy, definitely happening at our house next week.

    The first tofu I convinced the family to eat is a recipe from Veganomicon. The Baja Taco something. I use the marinade from that recipe on pressed, grilled, tofu and it is the BEST. Once they tried that, they were wide open to other tofu options.

  18. Chez Loulou

    Your first tofu experiences remind me of my first tofu experiences. When I became a vegetarian (it only lasted 5 years – my Italian Grandmother’s meatballs finally broke me down) I tried so hard to like tofu. I never did.
    Years later I tasted Ma Po Tofu for the first time and started cooking different Asian inspired tofu dishes with peanut sauce or spicy tamarind based sauces and finally discovered what a fabulous ingredient it can be!
    These look amazing and I know we’ll be trying them. Merci!

  19. Chihiro

    Tofu is neutral tasting but I think it should also be appreciated for what it is, with just the barest minimum of soy sauce, scallions, and ginger. Then again, you can really only do this with really fresh tofu. Most of the American supermarket stuff tastes very “off”.
    This dipping sauce/frying idea though is so like my favorite fried tofu! It’s really great when you use the soft, momen (silken?) tofu and coat with katakuriko (potato flour) before frying, topping with grated daikon and dashi.

  20. Mew Maurer

    So excited about this! I was so sad when I had to go gluten free (and dairy free to help heal my gut) since you were my favorite healthy blogger – all of a sudden I could have almost nothing in your recipes. This will be fun!

  21. i-geek

    I got home from work last night, saw this post, and immediately went to work on the pound of tofu that I’d bought earlier in the week for stir-fry. We like tofu, and since I’m Catholic it’s perfect for meatless Fridays, but we’ve never been able to get the pieces crispy enough just by sauteing them. Oh, we’re going to roast our tofu from now on. SO good with nice crispy outsides. The husband and I both scarfed it down. We’re going to play with the dipping sauce- we both agreed that a spicy peanut sauce would be amazing. And then we realized that the crispy roasted chunks themselves would be great in stir-fry, kind of like the crispy fried pieces of meat in General Tso’s chicken. Thank you for sharing this recipe.

  22. Kristen

    I love tofu, but it doesn’t love me, so I eat it sparingly and with enzymes beforehand. I’ve never tried it roasted though and can’t wait to do so! Thanks for the recipe~ it looks so good.

  23. The Wicked Good Vegan

    Wow, these look fantastic! I’ve fried, baked, and grilled tofu, but I never thought to roast it! Certainly healthier than the current frying method that’s been in my back pocket all winter, roasting sounds like it would bring out the perfect crunchy interior whilst preserving that silky soft interior that I love so much. I’m definitely going to try this the next time that I make General’s Tofu or Sweet-and-Sour Tofu.

    And the vegetarian option is almost always the best somewhere else: airplanes. Since you’ve reserved a ‘special’ meal, you get served first, and the food was prepared in smaller quantities. I’m sure that it’s the same with the gluten-free option!

  24. Karissa

    I am linking my parent’s to this. Whenever I go over and they are having tofu, they fry it. I don’t really eat fried foods, so I feel bad when they go through the trouble and I don’t try it.

    I once had a sample of vegan creamy spinach dip at an awesome gluten free vegan chocolate shop called Divine Treasures, in Connecticut–at one of their open houses. The cream base was tofu, but it tasted even better than regular spinach dip. I couldn’t believe it. It was delicious, I still need to find a recipe for it and make it sometime. In fact, I need to go back there and get more chocolates.

  25. Lydija Dahl

    We make something similar (slice into strips) and bake with marinade (keep turning & marinading as you bake) and you end up with great toppings for salads or add it to your sushi roll for protein or just snack on it. Love Tofu and can’t wait to try your recipe for lunch tomorrow.

  26. meagan

    I made this tonight and it was excellent. Also, Bunnykins dishes are the best; we had a whole bunch when I was a kid. 🙂

  27. Kevin in WI

    We had this tonight. It was super yummy. The tofu roasted up nicely. The sauce was amazing, all the flavors I love. It was soon married to accompanying broccoli and noodles. Thanks you two. As my old t-shirt says: Tofu You, and it never tasted better. Yum.

  28. Molly Stoltz

    thank you thank you for all of the vegetarian recipes. My house is meat and wheat free. I really appreciate that you have all of these lovely recipes. Sometimes, it can be really hard going home to a family who doesn’t really understand that vegetarian food can be so delicious and satisfying. It’s lovely to be around people who get it!

  29. Christine

    I’m usually apathetic on tofu unless it’s fried. This looks like a great way to get good texture from the tofu without the extra oil! I see it getting roasted and then getting added to veggie stirfries! Thanks for the technique

  30. Annika

    Part of the problem with tofu in America is honestly the product… When I was living in Ireland the health food store sold small batch tofu locally made and it actually had flavor and a very pleasant one at that. When I used it in Nikki & David Goldbeck’s recipes I loved it… when I got back here and started buying the prepacked stuff rather than tofu from the deli I stopped using tofu as much as I had in the past. I never thought of it as a meat substitute (thankfully) but having had the good stuff it’s hard to move on to this…

  31. Danielle

    It is in the oven right now! I’m serving it with broccoli to dip, too. 😉 Thank you.

  32. Deidre

    Yum! I’ve been eating tofu since I was little and been a vegetarian since I was ten…I’m always amazed when people say tofu is disgusting, because man it can be! but it can also be delicious and this recipe sounds like a winner! 🙂

    I posted a tofu enchilada recipe over on my blog yesterday 🙂

  33. marla

    I have no need to go vegetarian, but I sure do love my lentils, firm tofu & chickpeas. Neat thing is you can have them around for times when there is no fish, meat or poultry in the fridge. Michelle’s book sounds wonderful!

  34. Lara

    I am definitely making roasted tofu tonight, instead of pan fried!
    My first few tofu experiences were not good, but I persisted and enjoy it today.
    How exciting that you have a tofu factory on the island. I think the closest one to us is in Chicago.

  35. margie

    That looks fantastic. There is a local guy who makes tofu… he was pointed out to me one night at the Rongo. Supposedly, it’s the best anyone’s ever tasted, but of course, I forgot where I can buy it. I’d love to find it and make this recipe with it!

  36. Laura

    I have been gluten free for a year. I’m tired of it. Just had the worst piece of pizza ever and I want to cry. Got glutened 2 or 3 times this weekend while trying to go out and have fun with friends and wine and dine a client and it ruined several days for me. I don’t want celiac. I don’t want gluten intolerance. I want pizza. A real good, authentic NY slice. Forget it. Guess I’ll just go to yoga in the morning and try to start all over. I know you all understand so thanks for listening. Thanks, Shauna, for all your inspiration…especially on the tough days.

  37. Tamiko

    Fresh tofu, the kind that’s floating in water (in buckets, so you scoop some out and put it in a plastic bag yourself!) and not already in a package, can be lovely.
    We usually pan-fry tofu for curry, but tried this tonight instead: SO much easier, so much less oil! Hooray!!!!
    And Shauna, can you or Danny talk a bit more about the why of grapeseed oil? I am excited–just found an inexpensive olive oil/grapeseed mix at my Asian grocery store–but I was wondering about the science of using grapeseed oil vs. olive oil or canola.

  38. natasha

    I finally got around to testing this recipe over the weekend. I’ve been a vegetarian since I was 17 (I’m almost 37 now) so I like to think that I’ve had tofu nearly every way possible. Boy was I wrong – I. Loved. This. Recipe!!!!!!! OMG – YUM!!!! I’ve never roasted tofu before so you’ve opened my eyes to a new way of enjoying one of my favorite foods. And the sauce? Amazing – love the kick from the ginger, garlic and wasabi powder. This is going to be a favorite recipe on my “go to” rotation.
    Thank you so much for posting a tofu recipe!! 🙂

  39. Britt

    I did up some tofu like this tonight for dinner and made a mandarin orange & balsamic dipping sauce to go with. I’ve been wondering about roasting tofu forever but had some mental block about it. Thanks so much for posting this–I seriously think I could eat it every day.

  40. Mary

    I had a go at making this a couple of nights ago and gosh it was GOOD, so was the sauce. It has a bit of a kick but is addictive. I slathered the sauce on top of my rice and ate it with relish until I remembered that the sauce comprised of mainly oil. :S Oh well, it was definitely worth the garlic breath! Thank you for sharing this recipe!

  41. NWUmbrellaBryd

    I bought the tofu and announced to the boyfriend that I was going to try an experiment.”With what?”, he asked. My reply of tofu received a less than enthusiastic response, which he explained by reminding me of my texture issues. He and I are both happily snaking away and dipping into an Asian dipping oil. Be has okay’d this recipe for future use. Thank you for sharing!

  42. T Lewis

    YUM!! Love the roasted tofu. I sprinkled a little parm on mine and it was delicious! The sauce was tasting too salty to me, and I’m not a huge sesame fan … so I made some adjustments on the fly — reduced sesame oil to 2 tbs and only 5 tbs grapeseed oil, then I added boiled sweet potato (peeled) about one handful and some water and one small squirt agave. Cut the saltiness and thickened up nicely. I think I’m going to try it next time with sweet potato base, garlic, ginger, and only 1 TBS tamari, sesame oil and maybe 2-3 TBS grapeseed oil. Could be a nice less oily option.

  43. Cappy

    I just made these again today, they are so good! I made a little bowl of sauce using one tablespoon all natural peanut butter, a splash of soy sauce, a bit of water, a splash of rice vinegar, a dash of powdered ginger, and a small squirt of wasabi paste. Soooo good!

  44. Nadia

    I eat lots of tofu in lots of ways, and am excited to try a new one. Would this be a good room-temperature appetizer, though, do you think?

  45. Jenny Hintze

    OH MY GOSH!!!! This dipping sauce is so good, I could die happy right now!!! It’s amazing. I can’t even put it into words! I’ve been vegan for almost four weeks and I’ve been trying recipe after recipe for the ONE that would make me dance in the streets and this is the one! Thank you!!

  46. Jessica

    I just tried baking the tofu this way – I didn’t make the sauce, but needed some guidance on how to get crispy perfect tofu in the oven. It came out PERFECTLY!! I’ve never had tofu so delish – it’s perfectly crispy and crunchy and seasoned and we seriously can’t stop eating it. I served it over some roasted broccoli and brown rice with a drizzle of lemon and a sprinkle of Parmesan – perfection. This is officially my new go-to recipe for roasting tofu – soooo much easier than dry-frying.

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